When you think of the innovative sound and style of the band RADIOHEAD you probably do not expect their front man and master of all instruments performer Johnny Greenwood to be linked with a classically trained background or indeed a string of highly original film scores. Jonathan Richard Guy Greenwood was born in Oxford in the United Kingdom on November 5th, 1971. His most readily linked with Alternative rock and experimental rock musical genres but there is certainly more to this gifted instrumentalist than these two areas of music. Greenwood excels in the playing of Odnes Martenot, Piano, Keyboards and Guitar. He and his Brother Colin Greenwood who is the bassist in Radiohead both attended The Abingdon School in Oxford, where they met their future band members. Greenwood was the youngest of the group and was also the final one to become a member of the band. He began by performing harmonica and keyboards but soon moved on to also play lead guitar. The bands success led Greenwood to abandon his musical studies because they had been signed by a major recording label. Greenwood was always expanding his repertoire of instruments and is proficient in viola, drums and also bass guitar. Greenwood took his experience from performing with Radiohead and used it when he began to break into writing for film. His unique artistry and use of sampling, looping and programming helped the composer establish himself as a talented and highly creative and original writer for the cinema and he has over a relatively short period of time become a much in demand composer, arranger and performer within the film score arena.
His first solo work was for the documentary movie BODYSONG which was released in 2003.
Four years later Greenwood scored the feature film THERE WILL BE BLOOD which was directed by film maker Paul Thomas Anderson, the score which had a style and sound that was likened to the music of Bernard Hermann became popular amongst not only fans of RADIOHEAD but also amongst steadfast soundtrack collectors. Since the success of THERE WILL BE BLOOD Greenwood has scored every movie by director Anderson including INHERENT VICE and THE MASTER, in 2018 he was nominated for an Academy Award for best original score for PHANTOM THREAD, which was in a way Greenwood’s coming of age score and further established him as one of the rising stars of movie music.
Highly respected and enormously talented, Cyril Morin is known to many soundtrack collectors as a much in demand film music composer, who’s film scores support and ingratiate film and TV projects, he is also known for his chameleon like approach to scoring movies and creating tantalising and melodic themes for each and every project he has been involved with, but he is also a film maker who produces, directs and writes screenplays and has created interesting and thought provoking movies. (mmi-(c) 2019.
Since the 90’s, Morin has also produced over 30 albums, soundtracks and solo albums for his label, Massive Music. He has also orchestrated songs for Madonna, Mirwais, Kery James and the Indian singer Vidya Rao. As a solo artist, Morin’s “The Evolutionist” has been hailed a “cinematic journey” and “a beautiful fusion of sound” by critics.
.In 2012, he wrote and directed The Activist, a thriller about American political unrest regarding the Native Americans at Wounded Knee. Released in 2014, the film won awards at the Sedona, Tenerife, and Red Nation film festivals. It also received two Henri Langlois awards in France. The Activist was named one of the top 10 essential Native American films by Indian Country Today.
In 2015, he released Hacker’s Game, a love story between two hackers, starring Pom Klementieff (Old Boy, Spike Lee, Guardian of the Galaxy2) and Chris Schellenger (The Canyons, Paul Schrader). This film swept the Indie Fest Film Awards with four wins. His next film, NY84, was released in 2016. Inspired by the artists and music of the 1980s, the film looks at the beginnings of the AIDS crisis in New York.
In 2017, Cyril Morin’s “An American Trilogy” (3 features about 3 American tragedies) was given a worldwide release on Blu-Ray, along with a documentary to provide an amazing and in- depth look at the filmmaker’s concept behind the project. (source-IMBD).
Do you consider yourself as a film music composer or as a composer who also writes for TV and Cinema?
I consider myself as an artist, who is a composer who mostly composes for film. I like different forms of art. I love music and films, writing, and painting. For any forms of art the energy is the same, and “comes from the same heart,” this would tell someone about my work.
What are your earliest memories of any type of music or of a musical instrument, and were you from a family background that was musical?
I’m not from a “musical” family but my father was a jazz and classical music lover. My earliest memory is my first music class at 5 with a blind music teacher. Then my first score memory is “Lawrence of Arabia”. Later, I had a chance to meet Maurice Jarre several times.
Were you always attracted to the idea of becoming a composer as a career?
No, never. I wanted to be an artist, mostly a guitar player. One day I had to sing in a band because there was no singer. Then I thought I could be a singer which I did for ten years before realizing I wasn’t good. I always preferred the creation in the studio/laboratory, rather than the performance on stage. But I did the concert and the TV stuff which is a good experience.
Do you think that the scoring process is vastly different in Europe to that of the way in which movies are scored in The United States?
No. I would say the mainstream soundtracks are different from the independent soundtracks. It is a different angle and obviously different budgets. It is also true that the US mainstream films have more budget and require music all the time.
Do you think that there are times when not scoring a particular sequence or scene in a movie, can be beneficial to the production?
Silence is better and better… In films scores, music has a meaning, and music must be part of storytelling. Some stories need more music, some other less, and some, no music at all.
You have worked on a few historical movies and TV series, LOUIS Xl, CARTOUCHE and BORGIA, when you are working on a period piece do you carry out a great deal of research into what the music would have sounded like in the time slot the movie is set?
I never forget a film and its soundtrack are for a contemporary audience. As a composer I have to make a link between “now and then” and decide where to put the cursor. It is important to know the music history, in order to include it or not in the soundtrack. If you look closely to the Borgia score, we have electric guitars, sound design and renaissance instruments as well… But I always look at the story and the audience who will receive the sound, the music, and the characters and the story as well. It is sometimes a complex mix that you need to put together.
Your music for me has always been very thematic and melodious, what is your opinion of the growing trend in mainly big budget movies to fill out certain sections of the soundtrack with the “DRONE” sound or soundscape as it is referred to, is this just a trend do you think and will real themes return to the blockbuster soon?
Having a theme is very important. I have no problem with scores when the music is a “piece of sound”. I have a problem when there is no imagination at all, or when there is a poor connection with the film. Every film has music inside and sometimes the music can be almost nothing. Less is more, especially in Indy films or world cinema.
In every film there is a line where you go above or under. Above is when the feeling of the music has more power than the feeling of the story and the character. You have to cross this line sometimes to create an emphasis.
You scored, ZAYTOUN in 2013 I think, how did you become involved on the picture, and what size orchestra did you utilise for the soundtrack?
I worked a couple of times with the director, Eran Riklis. He called me for Zaytoun which was an important production with a US cast including the likes of Stephen Dorff. The score wasn’t supposed to be larger than usual but, in fact, it became larger because of the layers of instruments. For the opening, I recorded tons of percussions on the top of a string orchestra. There is also a lot of solo instruments like the solo violin or oud. At the end we were close to a hundred tracks for some themes. It was re-recorded on the top of a 50-piece string orchestra.
Is there any difference in the scoring process on a documentary as opposed to working on a feature film?
A documentary speaks about the truth. A film that is based on fiction is creating something else. And because music can change the storytelling or the curse of a story in a fiction, it is important, in a documentary, to respect the way things are, and not changing the feelings by a soundtrack which could influence too much the audience in one way or another. “Respect”, is the key word in that case.
Returning to BORGIA, you composed a lot of music for the project, when you work on a long-running series for TV do you for want of a better term, recycle any music or themes from early episodes into later ones?
There is no recycling. Every theme is different with me. And it was impossible to recycle on Borgia, because I had to adapt all the time with something new rather like it was coming from the story, or from the production. Recycling is not my cup of tea. Every film is a blank page, and that makes every beginning a bit painful because I always think I’m restarting from zero for every soundtrack.
What musical education did you have?
I was a bad classical student. I went to the conservatory, then I began to learn classical guitar. Later, I travelled the world to meet real Masters and learn from them. I’m a self-teaching person who was lucky enough to meet extraordinary people on his path. I went back to the school of music many, many times in my life, and it is still not finished.
Do you conduct your scores for movies, or is this not always possible due to the time factor, also do you work on the orchestrations yourself or do you at times use an orchestrator?
I do conduct my own music sometimes, and it has been a good experience. I also did my own orchestrations. I love doing all this, except time doesn’t allow you to do everything. For some soundtracks, it is better to have the best people in every domain, conducting, orchestrations etc, in order to have the best possible score. Team work never hurt and you always learn a lot from these experiences.
You have collaborated many times with film makers Pan Nalin, does he have specific ideas or suggestions about what style of music or where the music is to be placed?
Every film is a new start for him and for me and this is what I like. We often have the same experiences in life, and it is easy to understand each other when we meet again. We don’t need to explain much. On one film we did together, we even worked only on “keywords and a trailer”. And the music came out naturally. Nalin is a “Brother in film”.
SAMSARA is a beautiful score, so emotive. How much time did you have to complete the score, and what size orchestra did you have, The score also contains a number of ethnic instruments, when you are writing a score that requires ethnic instrumentation do you write the solo parts with a particular performer in mind?
Samsara was my first feature film. I recorded tons of music but, for most of the themes, everything came up in a very early stages. I recorded a lot of rare instruments while I was doing the demos, with some instruments being very hard to put together with a western harmony and for a classic orchestra. We kept most of those researches and recordings, and then we added a large string orchestra under it. Sometimes, you have to lock yourself in a room with a hundred instruments and try things. This is what I did for Samsara. The film is so special.
How many times do you like to see a movie before beginning to get any set ideas about style or where the music should be placed to best serve the movie?
The more I score, the less I like to see the movie. Nowadays I work much more on the right feelings I need to put in the music. The script also gives me a lot of elements I want to live with. But for all the films I did, the first time I see the movie is special. This is where I receive all the information, like a sponge. So the first screening gives you most of the music. Then, I feel it is better to work with this memory attached to my heart, than watching over and over a scene, or trying to synchronize a scene, which is something I do at the last moment, when all the feelings are in right place.
You have used both synthetic and symphonic in your scores, is it more difficult writing a synthetic score?
We know how western classical instruments sound, but we don’t know how synthetic elements sound in advance. Sometimes it takes more time to find a sound inside a synthesizer or a sample than figure out a flute or an orchestra… I like synthetic or electronic sounds when it supports classical or ethnic sounds. I did a couple of purely electronic/synthetic scores, and I enjoyed it. It is another kind of energy.
For you what is the purpose of music in film?
The storytelling and only this. Also a film’s score is made for speakers, nothing else. So you’d rather work the sound. Lastly you never work for yourself, but for a film and a story. You’re here to help, and if the film has success, you’ll get a little part of it.
Are there any composers or artists that you find particularly interesting and why?
Many, many, many. From the Middle Ages to the 21st century. I’m interested.
Do you have a preferred recording studio when you are recording a film score?
It’s always great when a recording studio has a past and a soul. I’ll always remember when I went down the stairs of the Beatles studio in Abbey Road. My legs were shaking. There are few places like this in the world. I was always fascinated by the studio at the Bulgarian Radio in Sofia. A beautiful place, where we created good memories. I recorded there for the first time with an orchestra, a few years after the fall of the Berlin wall. The atmosphere was special, and I will never forget the generosity and the warmness of the sound of the musicians (and the conductor) in Sofia.
What have you been working on and what will you be moving onto next?
I just finished a movie called “Desrances”, with an African female director who just win at the Fespaco (most important African Festival). I also did a German film (just win at Cinequest) and the next one should be an Indonesian film, then a feature documentary. At the same time I release solo albums here and there. The last one was four albums influenced by the soundtrack I did in 2002 “Ayurveda” which was very successful. The next one is a contemporary music inspiration which will be released in September.
Italian composer Roberto Nicolosi was born In Genoa Italy on November 16th, 1914. He initially was destined to be a dentist and graduated from University with a degree in medicine. But, he was also attracted to music and showed a definite talent for jazz, so whilst studying medical things Nicolosi also undertook a course on music composition at the Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory of music in Milan from which he gained a diploma. Nicolosi, decided to enter the dentistry profession but after a few years he began to perform jazz music and during the 1940’s he became a popular performer at first performing on piano and then conducting and arranging for radio and recordings by other artists. The musician was very talented and was able to play, Trumpet, Vibraphone, Double Bass and Violin. During the mid to late 1940.s he re-located to Rome where he worked in nightclubs and the theatre as well as becoming a music critic. The composers break into writing for cinema came in 1954, when he scored a documentary entitled THE SIXTH CONTINENT which was directed by Folco Quilici. It was during this period of his career that Nicolosi moved into scoring Epic movies that were produced in Italy, SWORD AND SANDAL films as they became known or were also gathered together under the PEPLUM genre category.
The composer excelled when writing for these movies which was somewhat surprising considering his jazz musical roots and interests. Nicolosi’s grand and symphonic style adding much in the way of atmosphere and mood to the movies that he worked on. His musical style could I suppose be likened to that of other Italian composers such as Carlo Rustichelli, Angelo Francesco Lavagnino and Carlo Savina who were also very active within the genre of the Peplum. Nicolosi utilising strong and vibrant string led themes and underlining or punctuating these with brass flourishes, percussive elements and at times jarring musical stabs to heighten the drama alongside romantic and lush sounding leitmotifs. Nicolosi would also experiment with electronic sounds within his scores as in ROME AGAINST ROME which although predominantly symphonic contained passages and sounds that were synthetic.
The composer also scored a handful of movies directed by famed Italian Filmmaker, Mario Bava. BLACK SABBATH, ERIK THE CONQUERER, THE EVIL EYE, MASK OF THE DEMON (aka-BLACK SUNDAY) amongst them, many of Nicolosi’s scores for Italian productions would be replaced by the American distributor AIP, their almost resident composer at the time Les Baxter often re-scoring these.
At times many collectors confused the composer with fellow Italian Maestro Bruno Nicolai thinking that Nicolosi was an alias for Nicolai, of course this was not the case. Roberto Nicolosi passed away on, April fourth, 1989, but his music continued to be utilised on movies after his death.
Composer Laurent Perez Del Mar grabbed the attention of soundtrack fans a couple of years ago with his wonderful atmospheric score to THE RED TURTLE, which was overflowing with emotion and haunting themes. More recently the composer scored I KILL GIANTS which was also a fan pleaser His latest scoring assignment “Mystery Henri pick” is every bit as alluring and attractive maybe on this occasion there is not so much poignancy, but the music reflects the films storyline and scenarios. The music I think is quietly urgent with hints of the offbeat if that is something that is possible, I felt whilst listening to the score that there was melody present throughout but at the same time this melodic content was underlined and surrounded by a tense and slightly apprehensive air or atmosphere, how can I describe it? Maybe the melodies are distracting one from what is actually happening, it’s like they are lulling you into a false sense of security, the melody becoming the main focus of the listener and them not noticing that something darker could be about to happen. The composer makes effective use of both strings and percussive elements that support and compliment each other, there is also some lilting and delicate piano performances within the score either supported by strings or at times solo, with the piano at times taking centre stage or becoming the foundation of the cue/track.
This subdued but taught style was evident in one of the composers other scores MON GARCON which is another worthwhile addition to any film music collection. The Maestro, has a talent for creating wonderfully effective themes that shine through even at the most sinister or dark periods of his score, with a real sense of the mystical being present in many of the cues, but also we are treated to a slightly more up-tempo and contemporary sound in cues such as LES PREMIERES RECHERCHES, there is a kind of jazz/neo classical sound going on throughout where the composer utilises strings or solo violin that is supported and enhanced by a slightly upbeat backing. I would describe the score as being low key for most of its duration, but this does not mean it is not a work that is filled with innovative and pleasing compositions, we are presented with mysterious sounding nuances, emotive and delicate themeatic material and urgent and quirky variations. Overall this is an interesting but above all a highly entertaining score.
PANFILOV’S 28, was released in 2016, it tells the story of the defence of Moscow in 1941 by a group of Soviet troops against overwhelming German troops who are supported by tanks. Later the Russian defenders were referred to as Panfilov’s men and were awarded the HERO OF THE SOVIET UNION collectively. After an investigation it was discovered that the defence was a fabrication and the troops had surrendered to the Germans. Twenty-two did die on the die however, and the conclusion of the investigation was kept secret. The film tells the story of the battle and not the troops surrendering, it is a gritty and grizzly war movie, which shows the Russians destroying the tanks and killing hundreds of German troops. The battle scenes are realistic, and the story is a fast moving all action war tale. Music for the film was composed by Russian Maestro, Mikhail Kostylev, the composer created a suitably patriotic score which contained action cues as well as melancholy and sobering musical interludes that were romantically laced and performed by the string section, The action cues are impressive as the composer utilises booming and pulsating percussive elements to fashion fast and powerful cues that support and underline the battle sequences effectively. The use of female voice within certain sections of the score is particularly emotive and poignant. The composer also brings into the equation solo trumpet performance which again adds a sense of loneliness and solitude to the proceedings. This is displayed more prominently in the cue THE ETERNAL LIGHT, the trumpet opening the cue and then being joined by strings and a melodious choir, giving it more of a commanding stature, the trumpet solo fades and the orchestra then take on the theme as laid down by the trumpet, strings, brass and choir come together to create an anthem like piece which has Soprano and also more trumpet as it draws to a close. The longest cue on the soundtrack is track number three STANDING DEAD FIRM which is the music scored for the impressive battle scenes, the Germans advance behind their tanks but as the attack becomes more intense the music builds and becomes more and more a part of the action taking place on screen, as the Russians defend even more forthrightly so the music underlines their determination not to let the Germans pass, the composer again employing am abundance of brass, percussion and string to create a momentous and stirring piece. This is a wonderfully atmospheric and inspiring soundtrack and one worth seeking out, recommended.
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